Women who suffer physical and sexual abuse continue to report significant levels of PTSD well into older adulthood


Women who have survived physical or sexual abuse may continue to experience post traumatic stress disorder and other mental health complaints well into later life, according to a new study published in the Journal of Women’s Health.

Researchers from Connecticut conducted this systematic review which involved finding what they call ’empirical studies’ from the last 30 years from a range of databases. Their aim was to find out more about the prevalence and psychological impact of interpersonal violence on older women.

Here’s what they found:

  • Young and middle-aged women report higher lifetime and past year rates of physical and sexual assault, and associated negative psychologic consequences, than their older counterparts
  • Older women who have experienced interpersonal violence report greater psychiatric distress, including post traumatic stress disorder, than older women who have not experienced such events

The reviewers concluded:

Some women who have been physically or sexually assaulted decades earlier in life continue to report significant levels of PTSD well into older adulthood. Gaps in the literature, including lack of information on ethnicity and culture, are presented, and future research directions are proposed.

Cook JM, Dinnen S, O’Donnell C. Older women survivors of physical and sexual violence: a systematic review of the quantitative literature. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2011 Jul;20(7):1075-81. Epub 2011 Jun 13. [PubMed abstract]

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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